Paddling through Stumphole Swamp in Lake Marion, you'd never know ospreys were once an endangered species. On a recent trip to the flooded forest, I must have counted a dozen of the osprey's stick-and-sod nests - some of them in towering trees, others in deadwood not much taller than a house.
The raptors could be seen soaring overhead in great circles, showing off their distinctive white underpants and impressive four-to-six-foot wingspan. Given their diet is 99 percent fish, it's no wonder they've taken a liking to Lake Marion, known for its abundance of striped and largemouth bass, crappie, bream and catfish.
Ospreys are just one of a large variety of birds that inhabit Stumphole Swamp, a beautiful cypress and tupelo forest at the northern end of Lake Marion. Among other winged residents are anhinga, double-crested cormorants, great egrets, yellow-throated warblers, eastern kingbirds, wood ducks, American coots and kingfishers.
Located along the tail end of the North Santee River where it flows into Lake Marion, the swamp sits in the center of the lake not far from Stumphole Landing. Although it's no more than a 15-minute paddle, you have to cross open water to get to the submerged forest. When the wind is up, you may encounter some hefty swells.
But once inside the swamp, there's little current or wave action to contend with. And unlike Sparkleberry Swamp - Lake Marion's other submerged forest - Stumphole Swamp is more open, making it easy to navigate through the trees.